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Turning up the heat on biofuels

May 15, 2013 3:11 pm | News | Comments

The production of biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass would benefit on several levels if carried out at temperatures between 65 and 70 C. Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute have employed a promising technique for improving the ability of enzymes that break cellulose down into fermentable sugars to operate in this temperature range.

Engineered biomaterial could improve success of medical implants

May 14, 2013 12:24 pm | News | Comments

It’s a familiar scenario—a patient receives a medical implant and days later, the body attacks the artificial valve or device, causing complications to an already compromised system. Expensive medical devices and surgeries often are thwarted by the body’s natural response to attack something in the tissue that appears foreign. Now, University of Washington engineers have demonstrated in mice a way to prevent this sort of response.

Grammar errors? The brain detects them even when you are unaware

May 14, 2013 10:40 am | News | Comments

Your brain often works on autopilot when it comes to grammar. That theory has been around for years, but University of Oregon neuroscientists have captured elusive hard evidence that people indeed detect and process grammatical errors with no awareness of doing so.  

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Bovine blood keeps gold nanoparticles stable

May 14, 2013 10:35 am | News | Comments

According to recent research at Rice University, bovine serum albumin (BSA) forms a protein “corona” around gold nanoparticles that keeps them from aggregating, particularly in high-salt environments like seawater. The discovery could lead to improved biomedical applications and contribute to projects that use nanoparticles in harsh environments.

Microgravity nanomedicine experiment may go to Space Station

May 14, 2013 10:00 am | News | Comments

Nearly all drugs taken orally spike in concentration, decay quickly, and are only at their peak effectiveness for a short period of time. working on a solution―nanocapsules implanted beneath the skin that release pharmaceutical drugs through a nanochannel membrane and into the body at a sustained, steady rate. To design better nanochannels for a given drug, the team is hoping to use the International Space Station.

Researchers develop synthetic HDL cholesterol nanoparticles

May 14, 2013 9:46 am | News | Comments

A new study by University of Georgia researchers documents a technological breakthrough: Synthetic high density lipoprotein (HDL) nanoparticles. A completely biodegradable synthetic version of the so-called good cholesterol, the nanoparticles represent a potential new detection and therapy regimen for atherosclerosis.

Building protocells from inorganic nanoparticles

May 10, 2013 1:05 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. have led a new enquiry into how extremely small particles of silica (sand) can be used to design and construct artificial protocells in the laboratory. By attaching a thin polymer layer to the external surface of an artificial inorganic protocell built from silica nanoparticles, the scientists have potentially the problem of controlling membrane permeability.

“Marathon” mice and”'couch potato” mice reveal key to muscle fitness

May 8, 2013 12:09 pm | News | Comments

Researchers have identified MicroRNAs as the missing link between the two defining features of muscle fitness: fuel-burning and fiber-type switching. The team used two complementary mouse models—the "marathon mouse" and the "couch potato mouse"—to make the finding, which could provide a potential new target for interventions that boost fitness in people with chronic illness or injury.

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Engineers build living patch for damaged hearts

May 7, 2013 7:56 am | News | Comments

Duke University biomedical engineers have grown 3D human heart muscle that acts just like natural tissue. This advancement could be important in serving as a platform for testing new heart disease medicines. The “heart patch” grown in the laboratory from human cells overcomes two major obstacles facing cell-based therapies—the patch conducts electricity at about the same speed as natural heart cells and it “squeezes” appropriately.

Scientists build a living patch for damaged hearts

May 6, 2013 12:24 pm | News | Comments

Duke University biomedical engineers have grown three-dimensional human heart muscle that acts just like natural tissue. The "heart patch" grown in the laboratory from human cells overcomes two major obstacles facing cell-based therapies—the patch conducts electricity at about the same speed as natural heart cells and it "squeezes" appropriately.  

Study uses Botox to find new wrinkle in brain communication

May 2, 2013 2:36 pm | News | Comments

National Institutes of Health researchers have used the popular anti-wrinkle agent Botox to discover a new and important role for a group of molecules that nerve cells use to quickly send messages. This novel role for the molecules, called SNARES, may be a missing piece that scientists have been searching for to fully understand how brain cells communicate under normal and disease conditions.

New imaging technique visualizes bio-metals and molecules simultaneously

May 2, 2013 2:25 pm | by Juliette Savin, RIKEN | News | Comments

Metal elements and molecules interact in the body, but visualizing them together has always been a challenge. Researchers at RIKEN in Japan have developed a new molecular imaging technology that enables them to image bio-metals and bio-molecules at the same time in a live mouse. This new technology will enable researchers to study the complex interactions between metal elements and molecules in living organisms.

Printable “bionic” ear melds electronics and biology

May 1, 2013 5:39 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at Princeton University used off-the-shelf printing tools to create a functional ear that can "hear" radio frequencies far beyond the range of normal human capability.  Standard tissue engineering involves seeding types of cells onto a scaffold of a polymer material called a hydrogel. But this method is not useful for complex 3D shapes, which is why researchers turned to 3D printing methods.

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Study: Synthetic biology research community has grown significantly

May 1, 2013 10:02 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars have recently reported that the number of private and public entities conducting research in synthetic biology worldwide grew significantly between 2009 and 2013. Their findings, which include more than 500 organizations, are tracked on an interactive online map.

Zinc: The perfect material for bioabsorbable stents?

May 1, 2013 9:49 am | by Marcia Goodrich, Michigan Technological University | News | Comments

In 2012, more than 3 million people had stents inserted in their coronary arteries. But the longer a stent is in the body, the greater the risk of late-stage side effects. Studies have investigated iron- and magnesium-based bioabsorbable stents, but iron rusts and magnesium dissolves too fast. Recent research shows that a certain type of zinc alloy might be the answer.

Antibacterial hydrogel offers protection from stubborn infections

April 24, 2013 5:00 pm | News | Comments

Coating medical supplies with an antimicrobial material is one approach that bioengineers are using to combat the increasing spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria. A research team in Singapore has now developed a highly effective antimicrobial coating based on cationic polymers. The coating can be applied to medical equipment, such as catheters.

Stem cell transplant restores memory, learning in mice

April 22, 2013 10:04 am | by David Tenenbaum, University of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

For the first time, human embryonic stem cells have been transformed into nerve cells that helped mice regain the ability to learn and remember. The study at the University of Wisconsin began with deliberate damage to a part of the brain that is involved in learning and memory. 

Scientists learn what makes nerve cells so strong

April 16, 2013 11:05 am | News | Comments

How do nerve cells—which can each be up to three feet long in humans—keep from rupturing or falling apart? Recent research reports that axons, the long, cable-like projections on neurons, are made stronger by a unique modification of the common molecular building block of the cell skeleton. The finding may help guide the search for treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

System allows multitasking runners to read on a treadmill

April 16, 2013 10:03 am | News | Comments

Not many people can run and read at the same time, because the relative location of the eyes to the text is constantly changing. This forces the eyes to constantly adjust. At Purdue University, an industrial engineering professor has introduced a new innovation called ReadingMate, which adjusts text on a monitor to counteract the bobbing motion of a runner's head so that the text appears still.

Researchers turn skin cells directly into the cells that insulate neurons

April 15, 2013 1:00 pm | News | Comments

Stanford University School of Medicine scientists have succeeded in transforming skin cells directly into oligodendrocyte precursor cells, the cells that wrap nerve cells in the insulating myelin sheaths that help nerve signals propagate. The research was done in mice and rats, but if the approach also works with human cells, it could eventually lead to cell therapies for a variety of diseases of the nervous system.

Tiny, injectable LEDs help neuroscientists study the brain

April 11, 2013 5:28 pm | News | Comments

A new class of tiny, injectable light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is illuminating the deep mysteries of the brain. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis developed ultrathin, flexible optoelectronic devices—including LEDs the size of individual neurons—that are lighting the way for neuroscientists in the field of optogenetics and beyond.

DNA discoverer's letter sells for $5.3 million, a record

April 11, 2013 2:46 am | by Ula Ilnytzky, Associated Press | News | Comments

A letter that scientist Francis Crick wrote to his son about his Nobel Prize-winning DNA discovery was sold to anonymous buyer at a New York City auction on Wednesday for a record-breaking $5.3 million. The price, which far exceeded the $1 million pre-sale estimate, was a record for a letter sold at auction, eclipsing an Abraham Lincoln letter that sold in April 2008 for $3.4 million including commission.

Overcoming barriers to medical use of microrockets and micromotors

April 11, 2013 2:13 am | News | Comments

An advance in micromotor technology akin to the invention of cars that fuel themselves from the pavement or air, rather than gasoline or batteries, is opening the door to broad new medical and industrial uses for these tiny devices, scientists said here today. Their update on development of the motors—so small that thousands would fit inside this "o"—was part of the American Chemical Society national meeting.

Researchers engineer “protein switch” to dissect role of cancer's key players

April 10, 2013 12:45 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at the Uniersity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have "rationally rewired" some of the cell's smallest components to create proteins that can be switched on or off by command. These "protein switches" can be used to interrogate the inner workings of each cell, helping scientists uncover the molecular mechanisms of human health and disease.  

Better monitoring and diagnostics tackle algae biofuel pond crash problem

April 10, 2013 12:28 pm | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories is developing a suite of complementary technologies to help the emerging algae industry detect and quickly recover from algal pond crashes, an obstacle to large-scale algae cultivation for future biofuels. The research draws upon Sandia's longstanding expertise in microfluidics technology, its strong bioscience research program and significant internal investments.

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